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kazu

Back to Black and the Med too.... Live from the Prinsendam

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Thank you, Jacqui for taking the time to post about your tour in Marseilles. The info about the volunteer tour guides was something I did not know...thank you so much for sharing.

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Entertainment on board.

 

 

I know enquiring minds want to know....

 

We have Dmytro on the piano in the Crows nest for pre- dinner cocktails.

 

Our piano man is Don

 

WE ALSO HAVE THE Station Band ( no HAL cats on the Prinsendam)

 

And of course the Prinsendamm orchestra

 

And the Adagio of course.

 

Shows so far have been

Joe West who is a multi instrumentalist and vocalist

 

Bravo

 

Matthew J Dowden (magician)

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The crew on the Prinsendam are well renowned for their exceptional service, but so far, this crew is the best I have seen (and that's saying a lot)

 

Maybe we just luck out, but we have very wonderful staff on board, charming, helpful.

 

We got off late in CivI so I also saw them at work as their drills had already started. They are over an hour long And it is taken very seriously. Saw the lifeboats being, drilled. It gives you a whole new. Perception.

 

Our concierge said we we had not had cappuccino and I said no, but if it's that good I would get one for my husband. I'll do it he said. I smiled back and said its ok, I know how to press a button. No, his reply, this is my cappuccino, he makes it manually and did. JOse gave it a thumbs up.

 

It's a lovely night as we leave civitavecchia and I reflect on how lucky we are to be on this cruise and with this wonderful crew.

 

This cruise is just getting better every day. If it keeps up this way I will run out of superlatives, but don't worry I have one complaint - LOL

 

More later. It's afternoon on board and not the right time to be on the internet;)

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Kazu

 

Enjoying your travelers, and it is reminding me of our fabulous cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam last summer when we did our 24 day cruise. I enjoy re living the memories through you! We will be doing your cruise 2016 for my husbands retirement! It will be a great pleasure and looking forward to the cruise!

 

Sincerely,

Denise :)

 

3STAR Mariner becoming 4 on next cruise

Sailing Nieuw Amsterdam B2B western/eastern Caribbean Cruise 3/15/2015

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Wifi is not bad on the ship. It doesn't seem as fast as last time but I have been using it at the wrong times. Best times are early morning or very late at night and I didn't do that (dumb, dumb, dumb). Part of the problem is also cruise critic which can be slow on its own sometimes. I checked our bank account today and was in and out in less than 3 minutes which I think is pretty decent since the page does have to load.

 

There has definitely been some refurbishment on the ship. The verandah chairs we have and cushions have all been replaced.

 

The Prinsendam, sign at the sea view pool has been replaced (and looks good) and the Dive In has arrived on the Prinsendam, haven't tried it yet. One person said it was awful on day one. Someone yesterday said it was very good. I'll report when we try it :)

 

I think a number of soft goods have been replaced - the couches look different than last time in our cabin.

 

I haven't seen any dripping in hallways or in the Lido so, so far everything looks very nice.

 

Oh, and the manager of the Pinnacle Grill is a woman - Elvira from Romania. She is very nice and very efficient. We have had breakfast in the Pinnacle and lunch today. So far, this Pinnacle grill is still the best in the fleet. By the way our PG manager has been with HAL for 9 years so probably some of you have met her. She says this ship is her favourite, but what else is she going to spay? LOL We are going to the Cellar Master dinner and Le Cirque and have PG dinners planned after that so I will certainly give you our impressions.

 

Prinsendam is offering the Wine around the World again this cruise. That was really good last time, so we will definitely try that again. The wine choices were really nice last time and hopefully it will be the same this time. I'll let you all know.

 

Rich - it's a different adagio this time and if you thought the last two were great, wow. I have to get their names. She is an artist on the violin. Te music they played tonight had people on their feet applauding. The explorers lounge is full and with very good reason. They are incredible. They had a request from a musucian for a very difficult piece and it was absolute magic.

 

I am still catching up and forgive me if I add things later. We have Durres Albania tomorrow and a very early start!

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An early start today. Remembering that we often arrived earlier than the stated time in the itinerary the last time on the Prinsendam, I suggested that our little group meet a bit earlier in case we could get off earlier as our guide, Ingrid would be there early. The hunch paid off, the ship was cleared before 8:00 am and to our guide's delight we were the first passengers she saw. Today we are a group of six with Gigianne, SFO Peter and ourselves.

 

Ingrid's Van was very comfortable air conditioned and she had wifi. Uggher as I had not brought my iPad. Peter had though and he was kind enough to share with Gigianne and I. Didn't want to use it much though as there was stuff to see, but at least I got my emails checked and discovered another couple had signed on to the Black Sea portion of the roll call!

 

Ingrid got us to Eze before any tours so we had the magical place all to ourselves. Eze has an interesting history. Because of the Pirates on the Mediterranean long ago, the people who were tired of being raided moved into the hills away from the sea to try to avoid being attacked. Unfortunately The village rose so high in the air that the Pirates could still see it and broke in via the spot where the donkeys entered the walled village loaded down with their goods from the fields. Eventually Eze was pretty much deserted with just a few inhabitants until Walt Disney arrived. Yes, this is a true story. He was enchanted with the place and suggested to one of the few residents that he buy up more of the houses and turn into a hotel. Despite the fact that the man thought Walt was crazy he did it. Now, Eze has 31 residents and two 5* hotels each with Michelin restaurants! Entrance is forbidden except to guests, but of course our guide knows everyone and our group of six got a glimpse of beautiful scenery and delightful decadence. Gorgeous terraces overlooking the hills and water. The entire city is walled with many steps and cobblestones and quite a hike so I give dull credit to our group for climbing all the way to the top for the fabulous views. Ingrid was very conscious of the steepness and constantly checked or found something interesting to see as we took little breaks.i really feel for those who have to provide room service and clean the rooms as it is a Hike!

 

After viewing this charming village we headed off to a different one all together - Antibes. A charming French village teaming with life. Wonderful market where Gigianne and I both picked up our herbs de Provence spices. We walked around soaking in the ambience and then had a sandwich, typical French baguette at a lovely little spot. Spying some beautiful lilies at the market, I scooted across to buy a bunch to bring back. DH just shook his head knowingly. No one was too surprised though. The others have been on cruises with me and know Kazu likes her flowers. After a nice break we were off to St. Paul. Talk about yachts! Wow! There are some huge ones here. Ingrid says it's fun to watch when the trunks open as you never know what will be coming out......ferraris, another boat, scooters, etc. these are obviously the yachts of the very wealthy. We headed down to follow another walled path (more steps) and small enchanting boutiques, wonderful architecture and beautiful plants until we reached the look out point. Wow! What a view. It was really beautiful. On our way out Ingrid took us to a spot where an Italian made home made gelato. It was to die for. After a bit of browsing, we were back in the van and headed to a secret spot that she had discovered. It was a look out point. We could see our ship as clear as day and that's when we noticed that the N. Amsterdam was missing. The wind had really picked up around 1:00 pm which apparently can happen a lot and Ingrid said they most likely could not hold their anchor. Turns out that she was right. From that view point, we could see three countries. Incredible.

 

Off topic, but our guide was not happy to see unlicensed guides who were arriving at Eze As we were leaving. These people would not be accompanying the visitors since they are not licensed and indeed, we saw one telling the group to walk here and here and she would be at the bottom waiting for them. And yes, I turned a bit red as they were shore excursions! I just consider ourselves lucky that we had Ingrid. She is one of the best guides we have had. I was really happy with our last one when we were in Monaco but she was so much better, she truly outshone the other.

 

 

Heading back to the port Ingrid paused at the bridge so we could see the white caps. The sea was really rocking. We had headed back early as our meet and greet was set for 3:30. We were anxious to get to our rooms to get name tags and stuff but boarding was delayed. They could only let so many people on the gang plank at a time due to the rough waves. The dock in Monaco is just semi attached so the crew had to hold and adjust and watch the gangway as the waves were causing grief. And there was another delay. There were passengers in front of us with the wrong key cards. They were the stranded passengers of the N Amsterdam. I posted a separate thread on that so I won't go into too many details, but the Prinsendam hosted and put on a special buffet for the N Amsterdam passengers until she could return to collect them. We ended up leaving late as the Prinsendam not only waited for the N Amsterdam but also went into position to try to block the wind so that the tenders could have a easier time of it. Of course we saw that part after our meet and greet.

 

Because this cruise is so port intensive, if we had waited for our first sea day, it would have been 4th day on the cruise, so we opted to do it late afternoon in Monaco as all aboard was 4:30 pm. My thanks to the co-ordinator Debbie Plewis as she arranged for the bar to be opened earlier than was scheduled so that those who wanted to have a drink could. The roll call for the first segment is not as large as the second segment but our turn out was good with about 35 people. Our cruise director Linda stopped by as did Debbie which was very nice. It's always fun to meet the people you have been talking to on the roll call and most stayed after the meet and greet as we all chatted. Very nice. Many thanks to Gigianne who made her fabulous name tags for us. These are the best I have seen! She really is an artist. By the way, Debbie told me that cruise critic meetings are her favourite!

 

Despite Leaving a bit later, someone missed the ship! The announcement came out to remove the passports from the safety deposit box! I didn't catch all the details but believe that it was just one couple.

 

It seems there is a problem with air conditioning in at least one cabin. One of our roll call members gave me a new cabin number as they changed cabins as they could not get their air conditioning to work. I haven't heard any other complaints and certainly we've had no issues. More on that tomorrow.

 

We had to slip out to the reception in the captains day room and then it was time for dinner.

 

Ok, we have a great table, great waiters and wine steward, but for some reason there is a four top so close to us that I can barely get by. Sadly, there is a lady at that table that is so loud that I can barely hear DH. The fact that she is very abrupt to the staff doesn't help matters either. I love the forward dining room but............. So, I asked if we could find another table. Our dining room manager understood completely and we are now in the larger dining room area. Our waiters and wine stewards know it has nothing to do with them but just the same...... Our new waiter and wine steward are very on the ball though. Basically we now have an open dining table which has been turned into fixed. I find this dining room louder than the other (more people) but certainly doesn't compare to the noise we were facing at the other location. I pity the waiters as the lady seems hard to please on top of everything else.

 

All that climbing had worn us out quite a bit. And apparently our companions as well as I found out later. We all wanted to see the show Bravo but none of us were up to it. I went to bed convinced I has worked off every calorie I had consumed on the cruise. I do hope this show is repeated on the next segment!

 

For those of you who do like private tours, I highly recommend Ingrid, Kilt our tours if memory Serves. She's number one on trip advisor and for a very good reason. Her prices are reasonable for the area and she was phenomenal. I hope my fellow travellers aren't let down by the rest of the tours. With two wonderful guides, the rest have big shoes to fill.

 

Oh and before I forget Captain Andre called the next day to apologize that he couldn't be at the meet and greet. Hardly expected with everything going on with the nieuw Amsterdam, missing passengers and leaving port but I thought it was very nice of him. Please pardon any typos I missed.

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Thank for taking us "along" Jacqui!

 

Sent from my SAMSUNG Note 3 usings Forums mobile app.

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Ingrid got us to Eze before any tours so we had the magical place all to ourselves. Eze has an interesting history. Because of the Pirates on the Mediterranean long ago, the people who were tired of being raided moved into the hills away from the sea to try to avoid being attacked. Unfortunately The village rose so high in the air that the Pirates could still see it and broke in via the spot where the donkeys entered the walled village loaded down with their goods from the fields. Eventually Eze was pretty much deserted with just a few inhabitants until Walt Disney arrived. Yes, this is a true story. He was enchanted with the place and suggested to one of the few residents that he buy up more of the houses and turn into a hotel. Despite the fact that the man thought Walt was crazy he did it. Now, Eze has 31 residents and two 5* hotels each with Michelin restaurants! Entrance is forbidden except to guests, but of course our guide knows everyone and our group of six got a glimpse of beautiful scenery and delightful decadence. Gorgeous terraces overlooking the hills and water. The entire city is walled with many steps and cobblestones and quite a hike so I give dull credit to our group for climbing all the way to the top for the fabulous views. Ingrid was very conscious of the steepness and constantly checked or found something interesting to see as we took little breaks.i really feel for those who have to provide room service and clean the rooms as it is a Hike!

 

I didn't know the Walt Disney connection! Many moons ago DH and I visited Eze when we got engaged in France. I told him about your post last night, and we reminisced about the wonderful glass of wine we had on the terrace at one of the restaurants that looked out over the ocean. As we recall, it was a restaurant for hotel guests only, but the staff was kind enough to allow two bubbly, newly-engaged Americans partake of the beauty.

 

Sounds like you are having just a wonderful trip, and the tour planning has been perfect. Thank you so much for taking the time to write the review.

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Great history on Eze! I did not know all that. Its great you got there early. Our one time there it was overrun with tourists which really diminished the experience.

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Great history on Eze! I did not know all that. Its great you got there early. Our one time there it was overrun with tourists which really diminished the experience.

 

Exactly what our guide said Kiek. She wanted us there before everyone else arrived :)

 

Apologies as I am a bit behind. A mall post and then with luck, wifi in Split.

 

Wifi speed has really picked up though. Much better today and a roll call member used it yesterday and reported fast :)

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The Marseille Greeters! We used them last year when we were there and had Max as our guide. The same thing happened with us, our short tour turned into a 6 hour, 18 mile tour! Glad you had a great time!

 

Enjoying reading your experiences! See you soon!

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Jacqui, I am loving reading your reviews/posts...thank you so much for sharing.

 

On a side note...I had the same noise issues in the dining room on our last 2 cruises (not so much on the previous cruises,as I recall). I love to meet new people, but it is very frustrating to not be able to hear everything that is being said and for that reason I now prefer a 4 top (DH prefers a 6 top:/ ) I know, in the big scheme of things...it's a pretty silly thing to complain about.

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Civitavecchia

 

We arrived at Civi and this is our day of relaxation. We have been to Rome for several days as well as on cruises, so today, rather than make that long trip we are going to enjoy Civi. If any of you are like minded, there really are things to do and myportofrome.com has a couple of nice walking tours and things to see. The only caveat, because of construction, the shuttle drop off point is not the same place. Just walk down and you will soon connect though. Civi has one of the largest markets in the country and it was really interesting to see. They also have some lovely shopping streets, a nice museum and great restaurants. The walk along the promenade is quite nice. We set out and enjoyed our time. and then stopped for the most fabulous pizza and free wifi :). It was nice to have a relaxing day after all the hiking and walking the day before.

 

I found a lovely Pinot Grigio in the market so we picked up two bottles and I can report that the corkage regulation is in full force. So we paid our $36 and took it to our room. I think we will let them keep a couple in one of the ports and see if we get it back after the end of the first segment or the second. Since we are staying in Athens, it is no big deal if we have to have a bottle of wine in the hotel room.

 

For some reason we were Required to carry our passports with us in Italy. I don't remember ever having to do it in Italy before and I hope itis not going to be a regular requirement. I will ask Dominic our destination specialist about that tomorrow. I really hate carrying them around. Much prefer to just take our colour copies.

 

It was Nice to see that there was a Rabbi in board to give the service of Rosh Hashanah to those of that faith. A very nice touch IMO.

 

Prinsendam is doing some Interesting movies, kind of themed on some of the ports. On our Monaco day they had a movie on Princess Grace (very good by the way) and after our Civi day they showed the DaVinci code.

 

Went to the Lido to work on my blog a bit and there were a number of unhappy campers regarding the HAL panoramic Rome tour. Now, I don't know what they expect to see from the window of a bus but apparently the guide was very hard to understand.

 

Dinner tonight was fantastic. dh and I both had the sea bass and my heavens it was really good.

 

Our new table has worked out well and isn't the asst dining room manager none other than our former waiter on a past Prinsendam cruise? Nice to see these people who were so good being moved up the ladder.

 

Tonight's entertainment was Joe West he sings and plays several instruments.

 

I felt sorry for the people heading into Rome as it was raining quite hard. By the time we headed out it was still chilly but by noon, the sun had come out and it was a beautiful day in Civi.

 

 

The next day was our first sea day and I think it was welcomed by a lot of people. We had planned on a leisurely breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill but DH slept in so we missed It and headed to the Lido. The ship had a kick off for the worlds cruise sale with a beautiful cake on display and a raffle for different prizes from the different departments.

 

Then, it was time for bingo. So off the silly Kazu went to play. The only time I play bingo is on the ship but for whatever reason, I like it. There were a lot of people (surprising on day one) so the game was on. When we got to the black out game, of course no one won, But I did manage to win the consolation :) - $240. A nice surprise. Helps with the losses in the casino, at least.

 

There was a lucky 7 game in the casino and despite having many tickets I failed to win. Julia in the casino felt badly for me and gave me a club 21 tshirt. Then chocolate covered strawberries arrived. It's not a good sign When the casino sends those. It usually means that you are spending money LOL.

 

The entertainment was Amour and The singers are quite good. Nothing can outshine the Adagio though. They had several requests for very difficult pieces of music. Absolutely wonderful. Last time I was onboard I said that they were the best Adagio. I take it back as this couples repertoire is amazing and the young lady on the violin is talented and charming.

 

Ran into Captain Andre and he said we need more of these sea days. Too funny when the captain says it.

 

Gigianne used wifi this morning and evening and reported that it is much faster. I tried to post but cruise critic wasn't co-operating. Wifi was as I checked our bank accounts but cc dropped twice so tomorrow is another day.

 

Got a nice call from Camellia at the front desk who was kind enough to take me around to 4 empty cabins for pics for Halfacts. She is new on this ship and was intrigued that so many people love this ship. We had fun chatting about the ship's she has been on and comparing to this one.

 

On this sea day we are cruising the straits of Messina. Very pretty and scenic cruising commentary. Around noon there were many dolphin frolicking in the water with us. I don't know if schools of them is the correct wording but there were lots. Lovely scenic cruising indeed

 

Tomorrow is another early day in Durres so I had better prepare.

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Prinsendam arrives in Durres Albania. This is a special treat as Albania was closed to the world for many years. Only since Communism was overthrown Have they begun to open their doors.

 

We have another private tour today that Maureen and I arranged. It took time to discover a trustworthy private guide here as there is not much written about Albania,

 

Our guide Gerdi tells us that although Durres is the major port for Albania, cruise ships are still a rarity.

 

This land has been conquered by many and for over 500 years they were ruled by the Ottomans. Of course the Romans were here before that and their influences can still be seen. In fact part of the highways were originally Roman roads.

 

Albania is very religious tolerant and there are no conflicts despite the population being 70% Muslim, 16% Greek Orthodox and 13% Catholic. The missing one percent are atheists.

 

While there are three million people in Albania there are actually ten million Albanians. The borders were redefined leaving some out of the country and many fled when the borders were opened. We travelled to Kruja, 1/2 way up a tall mountain. This is the birthplace of Skandenbeg, Albania's hero and in fact, the hero of many in Europe. Born here, he and his three brothers were captured and slaves of the Sultan. The Sultan quickly realized his military skill and he became a general. He then escaped and returned to Albania where his army kept the Ottomans at bay for 25 years. Since Albania was the entry point for much of Europe he actually saved Europe from being overrun by the Ottomans for those 25 years. We toured the museum in his honour. There are over 1000 books written about him, including a work by Longfellow and an opera composed by Vivaldi. Very interesting and a nice presentation. The museum was built in 1982, but despite that, I do not recommend the washroom facilities for the ladies. It is a hole in the floor.

 

We also went to a museum of a typical well-to- do Ottoman house. Fascinating. These homes were totally self sufficient with wells, instruments to churn butter, make yogurt. Make wine and raki and separate the shaft from the grain,etc. when visitors arrived the ladies were not allowed to be with the men, so there was a separate room for them. Back then marriages were arranged and of course the women were not allowed to meet them. A special room for the groom to be to meet the family and high above are port hole like Windows. From another room the ladies could peek in and see what their future husband looked like.

 

It was raining early in the morning and to get to the museum and home it was a walk on cobblestone streets through the grand bazaar. Warning, these are really difficult stones, not smooth cobblestones and very slippery. Our intrepid group made it though. On the way back, down the cobblestone Streets we had the opportunity to shop a bit if we chose at the bazaar. Several of the ladies picked up cashmere shawls at the expensive price of FIVE euros. I couldn't resist an exquisite tablecloth when the owner dropped the price to 20 euros. Although the official currency Is the lei, our guide gave us the fair exchange rate in euros or dollars and I found everyone treated us fairly in that regard.

 

We headed back to Durres for some lunch, free time and then a walking tour of Durres. Along the way you can see some of the 70,000 bunkers that the dictator had built. He feared invasion as Albania had been ruled for so many years and wanted to make sure that Russia nor another country did not invade. You will also see a lot of u completed houses. These are not abandoned homes, but rather those who have left the country to make better wages are investing in Albania and building homes, but the homes are built as they have the money to do so. There are water cisterns on top of a lot of the houses. While Albania has a high water table they still don't have enough To get running water all day, so they get water two hours in the morning, two hours at lunch and three hours in the evening. The people have their cisterns filled and use that water when the running water is not available.

 

Back in Durres a group of us had a light lunch and drinks at a lovely spot overlooking the Agean sea. pretty reasonable at 6.50 euros for the two of us. Then off to see the ruins including the Fort, Roman market and amphitheatre. Too fun at the amphitheatre as there were two brides there. It's a popular spot for wedding photos. Friday is the wedding photo day. Saturday is the wedding with the groom's family and Sunday is the wedding with the bride's family. And yes, the bride has a dress for each day. We had fun chatting with the locals and learning a bit about their culture and of course snapped some pics of the lovely brides. The two girls are natural models and enjoyed posing for us. Lovely

 

Time to head back to the ship. Like the other private tours, HAL didn't offer one like this with this combination and flexibility so we were glad we did it.

 

 

Mad at myself as I forgot to save the menu from dinner tonight but it was very good again.

 

One thing I like is that now under the cheese plate they are listing the cheeses offered. It was a lovely combination tonight so DH and I shared a plate.

 

 

On a bright note, the missing cellar master's package that had been gifted to us is now in place (always bring my confirmations) . It only has DH's name on it but that's ok.

 

Cruise critic dropped again on me.... Uggher so I will have to try again tomorrow in Split to get this posted.

 

Oh, and I found out why we needed the passports in Civi....apparently people are trying to sneak into Italy, so you could have been questioned. Interesting how things change.

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Jacqui, I am loving reading your reviews/posts...thank you so much for sharing.

 

On a side note...I had the same noise issues in the dining room on our last 2 cruises (not so much on the previous cruises,as I recall). I love to meet new people, but it is very frustrating to not be able to hear everything that is being said and for that reason I now prefer a 4 top (DH prefers a 6 top:/ ) I know, in the big scheme of things...it's a pretty silly thing to complain about.

 

 

We have a two top:D. I am happy to talk to neighbours but when I can't hear DH it takes away the fun of a two top. All is good now.:D

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The Marseille Greeters! We used them last year when we were there and had Max as our guide. The same thing happened with us, our short tour turned into a 6 hour, 18 mile tour! Glad you had a great time!

 

Enjoying reading your experiences! See you soon!

 

Looking forward to meeting you at long last:D

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Great reports - sounds like you are having a wonderful time in spite of some inclement weather.

 

 

Back on the ship. A person nipped on by the hair of their skinny skin.

 

A shore excursion was late and that was their saving grace. I have started to take pics with my iPad and will try to upload some Ravenna, time permitting tomorrow. Just leaving Split. Weather has really been nice overall and certainly better than home. Tomorrow is a DIY day, the mosaics and Dants tomb Is a must! More tomorrow from Ravenna a nd live from the Prinsendam who still deserves the name Elegant Explorer in my book. Gotta run and truest the wifi to see how many minutes this takes :D

 

Fair winds and following seas to all who are sailing and I couldn't do Bon voyages for. And my thanks to ROY for covering.

 

Toddle dee doo:D

Edited by kazu

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Kazu,

I am enjoying your blog. These ports and your description of the private tours make me want to explore these sites one day. Happy to hear that you have found life on board to be wonderful. We truly loved our time on the Prinsendam and wished we could have remained on her but alas we disembarked the day you arrived. If you get a chance, stop by and listen to Don Alexander, the piano man. He often took requests and was quite talented. Enjoy your trip.

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